Smoke on the Lodge Keeps Food on Crowded Weekend Menu

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The first weekend in April doesn’t lack for organized events: More than 200,000 people flock to the Flowertown Festival, and another 40,000 people compete in the Cooper River Bridge Run. Thousands more attend the Family Circle Cup. But for leisure-seekers who care most about food, Smoke at the Lodge may well be the weekend’s marquee gathering.

Now in its 11th year, the hotly-contested barbecue contest is the Summerville Masonic Lodge’s biggest fundraiser. While it occurs on the outskirts of the Flowertown Festival, it’s not affiliated with the event: It’s a stand-alone campaign to raise money for the Masons’ chosen cause (this year, juvenile diabetes is the beneficiary.) Gregg Griffiths, master of the lodge, is reluctant to say just how much money the two-day event generates, lest he spoil the surprise when his lodge presents its donation at a district meeting, but suggests the figure’s in five-digit territory.

For attendees, though, the value is apparent. The night before the Boston butt competition is judged, the 25 participating teams enter an “anything but” cook-off, in which the only rule is “no pork.” The teams sell samples for $1 apiece, making the Friday night food fair one of the area’s most affordable culinary events. Continue reading

Lowcountry Cajun Festival Scheduled for Apr. 6

crawfishThe Lowcountry Cajun Festival, now in its 23rd year, features jambalaya, etoufee, alligator, hot dogs and funnel cakes, but eaters show up for the crawfish, according to a Charleston County Parks press release.

“Visitors are encouraged to sign up for the (crawfish eating) contest when they arrive at the festival,” emphasizes the Apr. 6 festival announcement.

The festival at James Island County Park runs from 12 noon-6 p.m. The eating contest is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

For a detailed schedule, including information on the music acts, visit ccprc.com. Admission to the event is $10 a person, with children aged 12 or younger admitted free.

 

Taste of Folly Serves Up Samples From 20 Local Restaurants

How do you get a Ferris wheel built? If the wheel’s bound for Folly, you eat hot dogs; cook chili and sample food from 20 area restaurants.

The Taste of Folly Festival on Jan. 25 is a benefit for a group spearheading the effort to return a Ferris wheel to the beach. In addition to the hot dog eating contest and chili cook-off, the sampling event will feature a server Olympics; date auction; live music and a bouncy castle. Continue reading

Hilton Head Island Wine & Food Festival Tickets Now on Sale

If you don’t want to disembark the festival train after Charleston Wine + Food wraps up on Mar. 9, the Hilton Head Island Wine & Food Festival starts the following day.

Tickets are now on sale for the six-day festival, which boasts “the largest outdoor tented public wine tasting on the East Coast.”

Now in its 29th year, the festival is highly wine-centric. More than 850 wines are entered in the event’s International Wine Competition, which is conducted in late January, and New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov is planning to join the Grand Tasting on Mar. 14.

The festival schedule also includes wine seminars and wine dinners. For more information, visit hiltonheadwineandfood.com.

Final Reflections on Cook It Raw

photo (65)The last of the Cook It Raw chefs are now flying home, marking the end of one of the more ambitious culinary events to choose Charleston as its venue. Having spent the week embedded in the program, this is probably the proper time (to use an adjective favored by the many UK-based participants) to assess the week’s success.

Overall, I think the program was successful, although perhaps not in the ways I initially imagined. Because the young organization is still wrestling with identity issues, it hasn’t yet hammered out a concise explanation of its purpose: Its representatives have a knack for using words like “collective” and “curation,” which don’t always resonate in the goal-oriented U.S. What I took from the very little information I was provided prior to the event was that Cook It Raw aimed to sequester an enormously talented group of chefs for a week of creative kitchen mayhem.

The chefs did spend the week together at Middleton Place, but nothing occurred which I’d classify as crazy. I’ve been approached by countless locals asking about the event’s backstory, and I assume they’re terribly disappointed when I tell them the chefs spent their off-hours drafting ingredient lists and getting to bed early. The world’s top chefs earn their status partly through consummate professionalism, and their approach to this trip was no exception. Covering Cook It Raw wasn’t too different from covering finals week at any respectable college. Continue reading

Where to Get Your Pumpkin Fix

RichardBowen

RichardBowen

It’s officially pumpkin season, which means there’s no shortage of opportunities to get your fill of the autumnal flavor:

For the upscale eater: Peninsula Grill‘s Graham Dailey, a recent graduate of the chefs’ media training sponsored by the Convention and Visitors Bureau, has put together a camera-ready fried oyster appetizer, topped with pumpkin jalapeño relish; he’s also serving a beef filet with pumpkin succotash and grilled sea scallops with pumpkin butter. And over at Hank’s Seafood, chef Frank McMahon’s concocted a seared swordfish with pumpkin poached in a Vietnamese-style stock: The dish is finished with dark green pumpkinseed oil. Continue reading

Attendance Up at Southern Living Taste of Charleston

chstentSunday’s fine weather contributed to an uptick in attendance at Southern Living Taste of Charleston, an annual event hosted by the Greater Charleston Restaurant Association.

More than 7000 people visited Boone Hall for this year’s edition of the sampling bonanza, according to an admission estimate just released by the GCRA.

“It is a little bit up from previous years,” spokesperson Kaili Howard says.

Savannah Food & Wine Festival Announces Schedule

Fuel’s Alex McMahan, who yesterday failed to follow in his father’s footsteps with a Taste of Charleston waiters’ race victory, may not have to wait an entire year to avenge the loss: There’s another waiters’ race on the schedule for the first-ever Savannah Food & Wine Festival.

But for prospective attendees who don’t have any interest in maneuvering an obstacle course while grasping a serving tray, the Nov. 11-17 festival also features plenty of less-energetic events, including wine dinners, tastings and cooking demonstrations. Chefs scheduled to participate include Hugh Acheson, Chris Hastings, Steven Satterfield, Anthony Lamas and Kent Rathbun.

According to a release, the event is “poised to set the bar high.”

Ticket prices vary by session; the complete schedule is posted here.

Charleston Chefs Bring Bologna and Peanuts to Feast Portland

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Jay Friedman

Feast Portland, which serves as a coastal and calendrical bookend to the Charleston Food + Wine Festival, wrapped up this past Sunday, but not before impressing its lowcountry contributors.

“The scale, the walkability and the pacing were great,” reflects cookbook author Matt Lee, who along with brother Ted demonstrated oyster and peanut stew on the festival’s main stage and guest cheffed a Sunday brunch at Higgins Restaurant and Bar. “A ton of terrific things to try and do, but not so many you felt torn in eight directions.”

Like the Charleston Food + Wine Festival, Feast Portland draws the nation’s top kitchen talents to a town with a culinary reputation disproportionate to its size. But Feast is a much newer affair, having debuted just last year. Still, a few sessions have already emerged as classics, including the Night Market (deemed “brilliant” by Matt Lee, the event features chefs such as Aaron Franklin, Hugh Acheson, Chris Cosentino and Andy Ricker riffing on street food for a global bazaar format) and the Sandwich Invitational.

“South Carolina chef Sean Brock raised the ante with fried bologna,” The Oregonian reported in its coverage of the competition. Yet Brock’s sandwich, pictured above, ultimately lost out to a pair of homegrown entries: Portland’s Laurelhurst Market wowed the judges with its smoked beef tongue and pardon peppers on a roll, and Country Cat won the audience prize for its lamb cheeseburger. Continue reading

Greek Fall Festival Adds Beer Garden, Second Wine Tasting Area

greek-festival-gyro-largeThe food options for the first-ever fall edition of the Charleston Greek Festival are slightly abbreviated, but event chair Tony Forsberg promises more beer and wine at the Oct. 4-6 cultural celebration.

“It’s the first time we’re doing a beer garden,” Forsberg says. “And because it’s fall, we’ll have two 60-inch TVs playing football.”

At the spring event, which will celebrate its 44th anniversary next May, the food offerings include chicken and lamb dinners, served with rice, string beans, salad and bread. But since Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox is trying to keep its fall debut manageable, organizers decided to limit the menu to “all the delicious stuff you always get out of the gyro tent,” Forsberg says, plus a few more grilled items. Continue reading